Four years of research shows that 3D printers emit hazardous microparticles–which can embed themselves in your lungs forever.

In conclusion, how worried should we be when it comes to 3D printers? Should we resort to the tedious bristol board models every architect recalls making? One thing is certain, ventilation is key! As long as the areas where 3D printing takes place are well ventilated, chances are users will be ok. However, at the end of the day, 3D printers are not the only things that emit dangerous particles. The environment is, unfortunately, filled with hazardous materials that can affect our bodies. However, through studies and a better approach to printer technology hazards can be decreased and awareness increased. 1

3D printing error Image
3D printing error Image © Tony Buser

This advice comes courtesy of Georgia Tech professor Dr. Rodney Weber, who recently oversaw a landmark study on the emissions of 3D printers that was published in Aerosol Science and Technology. Part of a broader collection of research four years in the making, the study sought to standardize the way we measure the particulates put out by 3D printers so that we might one day certify some 3D printers and their components as healthier than others on the market.

Numerous studies have already confirmed that when 3D printers melt down plastic filaments to shape objects, they release nasty stuff into the air–particles as small as 100 microns (meaning they’re roughly 1/10 the diameter of a single bacterium, or 1/1000th the width of a human hair). But as Weber explains, just how much of this stuff went airborne was hard to measure, because every study was looking at a different combination of machines and filaments, with the emissions being measured in different conditions.